Sea Green and Sapphire

A blog about a love of colour, addiction to fabrics and joy of crafting…


10 Comments

Please excuse me while I hibernate…

Blanket knitting

Because of my illness (ME/CFS), my life is quiet and slow at the best of times, but this winter is has pretty much ground to a halt. During these last few months most of my energy has gone into the boring stuff of everyday living – making sure there’s dinner at the table and clean clothes in the cupboard – leaving very little leftover energy for anything else. It’s been like trying to crawl through a desert, hoping that I manage to drag  myself into an oasis soon…

But I’m not saying this to complain, I’m just saying it because I feel a bit guilty about the very sluggish pace of this blog.  It’s definitely not that I’ve gone off blogging, or have nothing to write about. I just haven’t had the stamina to spend much time on the computer, either writing or even reading other people’s blogs.

But in the last few weeks I’ve felt a tiny tiny bit better, an improvement that may not be radical but feels very precious nevertheless, just enough to feel that I can start catching up with things again. And on this blog there’s certainly lots I need to catch up with: all those dyeing experiments in the autumn that I never got a chance to write about, stuff going on in the knitting and spinning fronts, all those hundreds of thoughts in my head that I keep thinking I must write about.

I know I should learn to write quick updates: a few thoughts, a few pictures – quick and easy – done. I’m afraid I’m not very good at it, once I start writing the flood gates open and before I know it, 1000 words later, I’ve managed to flatten myself completely and then need days to recover again.

But enough of that, I’m sure you’re here really to read about what’s been happening on the crafting front…

Well one thing I have managed to keep doing even during the last few months is knitting. It’s the one fun thing I manage to do on most days even if I have had to drop everything else that is not absolutely crucial. Complex projects have gone out of the window, but easy simple knitting I can do. Hence it’s been a good time to knit jumpers, ones that involve lots of stockinette stitch, you know going round and round, not having the think what needs to be done next.

One of my simple knitting projects is a patchwork style blanket. It was started in the autumn, when I got the usual autumnal urge for comfort knitting.

knitted patchwork blanket

I’m using some multi-coloured skeins from Araucania which I have had in my stash for a few years. They are a result of a moment of madness in a yarn sale (yes I’m sure you know how easily it happens…).  When I saw the colours I instantly thought they would make a great blanket, as many of the colours individually were not necessarily that great (I suspect that’s why there were on sale) but together form quite a nice autumnal and homely colour palette.

I’m using the sock yarn blanket method that I’ve used before. And like my sock yarn blanket (which currently is stuck in my UFO box, waiting for inspiration to strike) I suspect this too will be a multi-year project…

Knitted patchwork blanket in Araucania yarns

Then, as I already said, a lot of jumper knitting has been going on. I knitted myself a jumper from Knit By Numbers merino yarn in DK weight (from John Arbon Textiles) in a muted greeny grey colour.

Modified Mandel jumper

I had high hopes for the yarn – it’s beautifully soft, a real pleasure to knit with, and it comes in lots and lots of colours. I particularly like the fact that the colours are organised in hue families, in colour groups that contain several different values of the same colour, ranging from light to dark. For this reason the yarns makes an excellent candidate for all sorts of colour work.

However, as I have been wearing it, unfortunately it started pilling very badly almost instantly. Merino always seems to do that, but the best merino yarns (like Madelinetosh Vintage) actually stop pilling after a month or so, so it’s not necessarily a long term problem. As yet I don’t know if this one does so too, at the moment I’m not very optimistic.

For the pattern I  used a top-down saddle shoulder one called Mandel. Or more accurately, I started using this pattern but I ended up abandoning it after the yoke – the rest of the jumper I just made up as I went along.

Modified Mandel jumper

The problem I had with the pattern was that I really struggled with the fit: the shoulders ended up being too wide for me (although I used a size in the pattern that corresponded to my measurements exactly). I also found it very difficult to get the arm hole size right, the pattern instructions somehow just did not work for me. I knitted the arm hole/chest area a few times, but what I should have done is to unravel it completely and start from scratch. I didn’t do because I thought it would work out ok if I just modified the fit a little bit (yes I have learned my lesson now).  I also suspected that the side pleats that are part of the design would not suit me, so I abandoned them too.

Well, once I started wearing the jumper and it stretched a little bit, I soon discovered that a saddle shoulder pattern is very unflattering if the shoulder fit is not exactly spot on. That’s why no amount of modifications after the shoulder fit had been finalised was enough to rescue the project – the shoulders just look huge and boxy on me. I suspect I will end up frogging this one and re-knitting it using some other pattern.

Husband also wanted a jumper, a really warm and chunky one, and as it is not easy to find good really chunky jumpers in shops, I decided to be a good wife and knit one for him. But as this is still work in progress, I’ll write more about it in some future post…

Red Tweed jumper

Advertisements


26 Comments

More Zen Knitting

knitted t-shirt, neck and sleeve detail (1024x683)Just as the summer drew to a close, my summer knitting project was finally finished. It’s a heavily modified version of the Clearwing pattern that I have used before, this time with linen yarn, short-sleeved and without the pattern at the neckline. It was a bit of an epic knit; knitted on small needles (2.25mm) it took two summers (although I was knitting it on and off in between other projects, and it was hibernating for many months at a time).

I am fully aware it is exactly the kind of knitting a lot of knitters find incredibly tedious. A large-ish project of endless rounds of stockinette stitch, no challenging patterning to provide mental challenge, no colour changes to look forward to, and, perhaps worst of all, in a yarn colour that could be described, in the absence of a better word, as beige. It is the natural linen colour, undyed and unbleached, and being as I always am fond of the natural muted colours that nature provides, I quite like it. It is fascinating to me how the colour changes with different light, mostly it looks more pale grey than beige, although in some lights the beige-ness of it definitely comes out.

So the beigeness of the yarn did not bore me to tears, and neither did the monotony of knitting endless rounds of stockinette stitch. In fact I find this kind of knitting very meditative and soothing, it’s Zen knitting that suits me just perfectly. I always need at least one knitting project on the go that is just simple knitting, no thinking required, just going round and round, giving my mind a chance to either rest, wander off to wherever it wants to go or else give you a chance to chat to someone or watch some telly.

Knitted Linen T-shirt

The yarn is organic linen, beautifully and somehow very appropriately named Sparrow by Quince & Co.  When I bought it, it didn’t come in any others colours, although these days there are several beautiful colours to choose from. It’s a beautiful yarn, not harsh like some linen yarns can be initially (although they do all soften with use). Being a plant-based cellulose yarn, it is of course not stretchy at all, and in the beginning I found it quite hard work to knit – compared to soft wool with its natural stretch knitting linen feels like it takes more effort, especially to keep the tension even and not too loose. After a while, I did get used to it though, but you can see the gauge changing – in the beginning, at the top, it was much looser and more uneven, and towards the end it was much neater and smaller.

I like the finish the i-cord bind-off gives to the sleeves

I like the finish the i-cord bind-off gives to the sleeves

Cotton, although hard to avoid in clothing these days, is not always a very sustainable choice as it requires a lot of water and pesticides to grow. For this reason I quite like the idea of using linen for my summer knitting. And from a quality point of view, I would be very happy to use this yarn again, it just feels smooth and crisp, already you can feel the softness that is going to come out with wear and washing.

But from a sustainability point of view, there’s one big but: Quince & Co Co, based in the US, use Belgian linen so  by the time they have spun the yarn and shipped it to me here in the UK, the yarn has crossed the Atlantic twice, which makes quite a few yarn miles. I think for future linen projects I’d like to try to find a European supplier, if I can just find a yarn that matches the quality of this one. I sometimes think I’d love to grow my own linen, and then spin it, but having done a bit of research on it, it just sounds like a lot of very hard work (as well as some extra equipment to break the plant stems) so it is definitely a project that needs to wait for a year when my energy stores are fully stocked up.

Meanwhile, it is now time for big woolly jumpers so I am on the lookout for new chunky jumper patterns and yarns and this little T-shirt will sadly have to be tucked away in the cupboard to wait for next summer.


2 Comments

Vaila Jumper

My Vaila jumperMy Vaila jumper is finally ready. I bought the yarn (Madelinetosh Vintage) for a Christmas present for myself last year (yes I can always think of a good excuse to buy some expensive luxury yarn…).

My previous big jumpers that I had knitted had suffered from sagging, so this time I wanted to make sure I chose a good yarn from a crimpy wool like Merino to make sure the jumper will hold its shape.

I started knitting it January, but didn’t get round to finishing it by the time summer arrived. Any pattern that contains lace always takes me at least ten times longer, because inevitable I would make a mistake, and then the project would hibernate for weeks before I can face trying to fix the problem.

But as soon as the autumn arrived out came the jumper again and, having had a head start, it is ready just in time for the chilly weather.

I made a few modifications to the pattern. I left out the lace panel at the back and instead of the reverse stockinette stitch, I chose to do it standard stockinette stitch. I wasn’t in a mood for all that purling, plus I didn’t like the way the reverse stockinette stitch looked like in this yarn. It somehow looked a bit dull, the very subtle semi-solid variegation on this yarn wasn’t quite enough to lift it.

I love this jumper, it’s exactly what I needed and I practically live in it at the moment. And so far at least it definitely hasn’t sagged, which I am pleased about.

As I live in a hundred year old poorly insulated house, I always need lots of really thick jumpers so I have already started another one.  But given all those secret can’t-be-blogged-about projects that are going on at this time of the year, I don’t have very much time for knitting it right at the moment, but I am definitely hoping to finish it before the winter ends.


1 Comment

The Clearwing Jumper

Clearwing Jumper from Rowan Revive yarnIt’s always a delight to find a knitting pattern that is both simple and clever, one that is easy to knit but educational at the same time. This happened to me recently when I was browsing Ravelry, looking for a pattern for a summer jumper. The yarn I had chosen, Rowan Revive in col0urway Firestone, was a reasonably busy one, so I wanted a pattern that is a simple and plain as possible.

Simple patterns often get lost in the crowd in Ravelry, your eye naturally gets drawn to all those elaborate design elements that make a pattern unique. But when I saw the Clearwing pattern I thought it would work well with the yarn. And as soon as I started knitting the pattern I realised that it had several clever construction techniques that will definitely come in handy in future projects too.

The jumper is knitted top down and it comes with a V-neck and raglan sleeves,  a classic style that is always useful to know how to knit. The neckline was constructed by first knitting a narrow band that goes around the neck, and it was from the side of this band that you pick up the stitches for the main part of the jumper – very clever indeed, particularly as the band keeps the neck from stretching and there’s no need for a ribbing. The edge of the sleeves and the hem were finished with an i-cord bind-off, something that I hadn’t done before but again a really useful technique to know about as it gives a nice and neat finish to the garment.

Once you’ve knitted the pattern once to get familiar with the techniques, it would be easy to adjust to different sizes and gauges so I will definitely use this one again, probably very soon as I’ve just bought some linen yarn that I want to knit a short sleeved top from.

Rowan Revive YarnThe Rowan Revive yarn is made from recycled cotton, silk and polyester fibers. I am all for recycling fibers, but it’s definitely a nice enough yarn to use even if recycling itself is not your thing. I normally try to avoid artificial fibers in jumpers, but in this case I decided to make an exception, just to support the idea of recycling fibers and creating beautiful new yarns from them.

As the yarn gives quite a busy surface pattern, with hindsight I probably should have left out the neck embellishment in the Clearwing pattern, it did not need it. But by the time I realised this I was too lazy to undo what I had just knitted. I like the end result neverthless, it’s a nice and useful everyday jumper that goes well with blue jeans.

****

PS.

Here in the UK last weekend the whole country was celebrating the Diamond Jubilee (Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne). We even got an extra day off for it. Even in our little village there were several days’ worth of special events, including a street party on Sunday afternoon. I know that at least my mum and dad in Finland would like to see a few photos from the party so here they are – I hope others enjoy them too!

Diamond Jubilee Party Food

Diamond Jubilee village party

Diamond Jubilee Party Dog


2 Comments

Drifter Jumper

a cable detail in the Drifter jumper

Here’s a project I finished ages ago, but never got round to showing the photos on this blog. This was one of my pre-Christmas secret knitting projects as it was a combined birthday and Christmas present for my brother. So here you are, finally, the “Drifter” jumper knitted from Rowan Cocoon yarn (colourway Crag).  The pattern is published in the Rowan magazine number 48.

Drifter jumperApologies for a not-so-great photograph – I would have preferred to photograph the jumper being worn by my brother as it looks really good on him, but unfortunately I forgot to do it when the jumper and my brother were here in the UK. My brother and his wife (who live in Finland) have recently had a new baby boy and since they are now parents to two little boys under 3 they are rather busy as you can imagine. That’s why I did not want to hassle him about photographing the jumper and emailing the photos to me, I’m sure you understand!

I’ve used Rowan Cocoon yarn before, when I knitted the Hiker jumper from the same magazine for my husband. Although I really enjoyed knitting this yarn – it is very soft and fluffy after all – I was quite disappointed about how it performed in use. It is piling very badly and the jumper itself almost instantly stretched so that it’s nearly double the size now. It stretched even more when I hand washed it so it is pretty much unusable now. A real shame, after all that effort! I am debating now whether to unravel it or felt it, either way the only option is to make something else out of it, it’s no use as a jumper any more.

So needless to say I was very disappointed with Cocoon, but I had already bought the yarn for the Drifter jumper so I had no choice but to use it again. This time I changed the needle size to a smaller one to make the structure tighter and this seems to have done the trick as my brother’s jumper hasn’t stretched so much. The pattern itself probably helped as it has large-scale ribs as well as cables which help to keep it pulled in sideways. But nevertheless, despite all the lovely jumper patterns Rowan has designed for this yarn, I would not recommend Cocoon for large and heavy items, it’s probably more suitable for things like hats and scarves.


2 Comments

Dunstan Slipover

For many years my dad has had a wish that someone would knit him a slipover. Unfortunately, no-one in the family was very enthusiastic about this challenge. Well, my mum is a very specialist knitter and only knits socks. And for many years my sister and I were only occasional knitters/crocheters who did not attempt anything too big. Poor dad, was it really too much to ask?

As in the last two years I’ve ventured out from my sock/mitten comfort zone and got into bigger knitting projects, I realised that really, there was no excuse, it had to be done. So when I saw the Dunstan slipover pattern in the issue 31 of the Knitter magazine, I knew the time had come.

Dunstan slipoverI used Rowan’s Baby Alpaca DK yarn (so soft!) in colorway Chifon (212), which is a lovely subtle reddish purple. I was very pleased with the yarn choice, but less so with the pattern. The design was nice, but the instructions weren’t very clearly written. The shoulder part was so incomprehensible that I had to abandon the instructions and improvise.

But it worked out pretty well in the end and here it finally is, a slipover for my dad, presented as a Christmas gift. So finally, one happy dad.


Leave a comment

The Hiker Jumper

Hiker Jumper in Rowan Cocoon seascape by Heidi Tyrvainen The Hiker Jumper is finally ready. I started it back in the end of May, and the knitting itself didn’t take that long, about 4 weeks.

But then, there was major trouble, as I blogged at the time: the sleeves, knitted as recommended in the pattern, were in reality way too long and I only realised it once I had sewn most of the pieces together. I blame beginner’s naivety, I just trusted the pattern would be correct.

It turned out to be a major hassle to correct the error. Firstly, my newly sewn seams which I had so carefully back-stitched, were pretty bomb-proof, nearly impossible to undo. And of course I managed to cut several pieces of yarn in the knitting, making quite a few holes. To cut a long and frustrating story short, I ended up unravelling and reknitting both of the sleeves and a quarter of the front body. It almost felt like knitting the jumper twice.

In the end though, the jumper turned out to be very nice and the hubby really likes it. Now that it has been worn for a while, it has stretched quite a bit (it’s quite a heavy jumper and my knitting was quite loose) and  consequently it’s a bit on the large side. With hindsight, I should have gone one or two needle sizes smaller (no, I didn’t swatch before starting – another lesson learned).

Another thing I’ve already noticed about the yarn is that it is piling quite heavily. I suspect Rowan Cocoon, lovely, soft, cuddly and warm though it is, is not the most durable yarn.

So needless to say, it was a frustrating educational project. Here are some of the things I learned:

– never trust the pattern too much – measure things properly and keep checking as you knit

– swatch!!

–  back-stitching the seams is a bit of an overkill and not easy to undo if there’s any trouble. Luckily I found some really handy tips on seams on the Twist Collective magazine. In the end I chose to crochet the seams and that was much quicker and easier. I’m guessing the crocheted seams would be far easier to unravel too.